Using Thoreau, scientists measure the impact of climate change on wildflowers

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Henry David Thoreau portrait by Darren McAndrew 2017

 A new study published in Ecology Letters is using observations made by Henry David Thoreau – 19th-century American naturalist, social reformer, and philosopher – to explore the effects of climate change on tree leaf-out and, as a result, the emergence of spring wildflowers.

The paper was coauthored by Susan Kalisz, head of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Mason Heberling, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow affiliated with UT. Researchers from the University of Maine, Boston University, and Syracuse University also participated in the research.

Read more: Using Thoreau, scientists measure the impact of climate change on wildflowers

Climate change limits forest recovery after wildfires

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Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forest burned in the 1994 Idaho City Complex Fire on the Boise National Forest in Idaho, and little regeneration has occurred since

New University of Montana research suggests climate change makes it increasingly difficult for tree seedlings to regenerate following wildfires in low-elevation forests, which could contribute to abrupt forest loss.

The study, “Wildfires and Climate Change Push Low-elevation Forests Across a Critical Climate Threshold for Tree Regeneration, “was published March 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is available online at

Read more: Climate change limits forest recovery after wildfires

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 26

Leo Babauta – USA 

Finding stillness and reflection


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Silence is a source of great strength - Lao Tzu


It’s a busy day, and you’re inundated by non-stop emails, text messages, phone calls, instant message requests, notifications, interruptions of all kinds.

The noise of the world is a dull roar that pervades every second of your life. It’s a rush of activity, a drain on your energy, a pull on your attention, until you no longer have the energy to pay attention or take action.

It’s an illness, this noise, this rush. It can literally make us sick. We become stressed, depressed, fat, burnt out, slain by the slings and arrows of technology. 

The cure is simple: it’s stillness.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 26

Julian of Norwich

Ananya Sri Ram Rajan – USA 

He showed me a little thing the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind's eye and I thought, 'What can this be?' And the answer came, 'It is all that is made'. I marveled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing, it was so small. And the answer came into my mind, 'It lasts and ever shall because God loves it'. And all things have being through the love of God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            From: Revelations of Divine Love

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Julian of Norwich

There is little concrete information about the life of Julian of Norwich. It is written that she was born around 1342 and died sometime after 1416. When she was thirty, she fell severely ill and it was believed she would die. It is during this time that she received sixteen visions on May 8, 1373 which led to the publication of Revelations of Divine LoveRevelations of Divine Loveis thought to be the first book from the Middle Ages ever written in English and, that too, by a woman. Her recollections of the visions (known as the “short text”) and her meditations on what she had been shown (written twenty years later and known as “the long text”) have been a great source of comfort to many. A scan of the cover of the long text of her book states that she was known as “Mother Julian, an Anchorite of Norwich who lived in the days of King Edward the third.”

There is some suggestion that Julian was a Benedictine nun from Carrow Abbey, but it is not known for certain. She, however, was definitely an anchoress of St. Julian Church in Norwich which is most likely how she receive her name. For those not familiar with the term, an anchoress was a woman who walled herself in a cell next to a church as way to contemplate and create a relationship with God. Julian was given three small openings, one to receive communion, one to receive her food and dispose of her waste, and another to give counsel to the public.

 Julian’s real name is unknown as she gave little information about herself. What is known about her is based on records of donations and bequests left to her. She regularly gave counsel to various people from all walks of life and was a popular anchoress. This despite there being restrictions, according to the Ancrene Wisse(an instruction manual for anchoresses) as to how often an anchoress was to meet with the public. An anchoress was to spend her time as a recluse contemplating God and leaving behind the day to day world. However, many did little of that. 

Read more: Julian of Norwich

A Practical Guide to Death and Dying – part 4

John White – USA

[A Practical Guide to Death and Dying was originally published by QUEST books in 1980. This particular version was previously published in the Theosophical Digest, y1992 v4 i2-p90.] 

Dying the Good Death — The Final Hours of Saints and Heroes 

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In 1963 an extraordinary East Indian spiritual teacher named Govindananda died at age 137. He had lived an incredibly strenuous life, actually journeying around the world by foot. Many heads of state were his friends, yet he lived humbly in a small jungle hut. When he became aware that it was time to die, he spoke quietly to a few disciples with him, gave a final blessing – “Live right life, worship God” – lay down, rested his head on his right palm in his usual sleeping position, and simply stopped breathing.

One of the remarkable things about saintly people is that even their deaths are often acts of inspiration and love. After showing us how to live – selflessly and in service to others – they show us how to die –  fearlessly and with dignity, strong in faith to the end.

Gautama Buddha, well into his eighties, continued teaching and preaching to the end. When he felt himself dying, he told his faithful disciple Ananda, who began to weep. The Buddha admonished him, “Have I not already, on former occasions, told you that it is the very nature of things that we must separate from them and leave them? The foolish man conceives the idea of ‘self [personal self or ego], the wise man sees there is no ground on which to build it!”

Disciples gathered around the Buddha and he delivered his Dying Sermon. He ended his farewell address with these words, “Behold now, brethren, I exhort you by saying: Decay is inherent in all component things, but the truth will remain forever! Work out your salvation with diligence.” Those were his last words. Then the Buddha fell into deep meditation and entered nirvana.

Read more: A Practical Guide to Death and Dying – part 4

Women and Spirituality: Mary Magdalene

Ananya Sri Ram – USA  

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Now known as the Apostle of the Apostles’ by the Vatican in 2016, dear Mary Magdalene has come a long way. Originally known in the Bible as a repentant woman whom Jesus cast seven demons from, she was thought to be a prostitute. For years, Mary Magdalene has been an enigma in the life of Jesus. Did she really exist? Was she a prostitute? Was she the physical lover of Jesus? These questions say more about us as a humanity and our inquisitiveness than anything else. Perhaps it is our need to view Jesus as a human being no different from ourselves, living a human life with human desires. But the controversy over Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus has been one of curiosity for many—scholars, theologians, and feminists to name a few.

Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity(2011) provides an insightful look into the mysterious being known as Mary based on the canonical and Gnostic Gospels, as well as other teachings and research. Her goal in the book is to “reclaim Mary Magdelene’s legitimate role as a teacher and apostle.” (Considering this, I wonder what influence Cynthia’s work had toward the Vatican’s decision.) Bourgeault looks at Mary from three different aspects: as the Apostle, as the Beloved, and as the symbol for the Unitive Wisdom. It is from these different views that we are able to look at the role that Mary Magdalene plays as a woman, a disciple, and a teacher of the Wisdom Tradition, guiding individuals in their spiritual journey. 

Read more: Women and Spirituality: Mary Magdalene

Religious involvement deters recreational and medical marijuana use, researchers find


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Although marijuanause for medical and recreational purposes is at an all-time high in the United States, a team of researchers led by a Florida State University professor has found those who hold strong religious beliefs are choosing to stay away from weed.

FSU Associate Professor Amy Burdette and her team found that individuals who regularly attend church and report that religion is very important in their daily decision making are less likely to use marijuana recreationally and medically. The study was recently published in the Journal of Drug Issues.

“Our study confirms previous studies of recreational marijuana use,” Burdette said. “However, I believe ours is the first to examine the association between religiosity and medical marijuana use.”

Read more: Religious involvement deters recreational and medical marijuana use, researchers find

Conflict, Continuity and the Expansion of Consciousness

Tim Wyatt – England


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As much as many spiritual people dislike and deny the fact - conflict has always been central to human existence and conduct. It has been one of the painful but principal drivers of progress. Without this constant interplay between discord and harmony, individuals, societies and civilizations would have remained static and non-dynamic. Individually we need challenges to perpetually push against. For those choosing an accelerated path to spiritual development, conflict is a permanent feature and the challenge is to use it creatively.

It may be obvious but as esotericists we always have to thoroughly question everything. We are obliged to search out the inner rather than the outward exoteric causes of events by applying timeless cosmic laws such as The Law of Polarity or the twin Laws of Karma and Reincarnation rather than transitory human ideas.  We are interested in the deeper occult meanings of things rather than obvious outward explanations. Often we are at variance with the fads and fashions of the time.

This can lead to isolation and alienation leaving those who dissent very unpopular because they do not choose to follow the herd. The herd, by the way, is always reactionary and usually wrong. It has an almost limitless capacity for ignorance and discord.

In fact violence and cruelty are so deeply embedded in the human make-up – physically, emotionally and mentally – that eradicating this gallingly persistent human trait seems as dauntingly impossible as travelling to the most distant galaxy. One day both will be achievable – but each of us will have reincarnated many times before that time arrives.

Humanity has reached a pivotal turning point in its development and for many reasons – exoteric and esoteric – it appears to be in the process of tearing itself apart on virtually every level but especially politically, religiously, socially, economically and ecologically. This destruction is entirely normal and no doubt part of a wider re-configuration of ourselves and the planet. 

It appears we are approaching some kind of apocalypse or Götterdämmerung. But there’s nothing to worry about – it is a regular occurrence. As we know from that most Teutonic of German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche – that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – eventually.

Read more: Conflict, Continuity and the Expansion of Consciousness

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